Co-operative chief executive Chris Connors said a meeting had already taken place in Sydney between the mill and the interested company.
Co-operative chief executive Chris Connors said a meeting had already taken place in Sydney between the mill and the interested company. Doug Eaton

China's bid for sugar mills

THE NSW Sugar Milling Co-operative has begun talks with a Chinese company about a possible sale of its sugar processing mills at Harwood, Condong and Broadwater.

Co-operative chief executive Chris Connors said a meeting had already taken place in Sydney between the mill and the interested company.

“We have had a very preliminary meeting,” Mr Connors said.

“Nothing is concrete.

“It’s part of an overall plan.”

Mr Connors said the co-operative had adopted a business plan two years ago which included the possibility of ‘restructuring,’ and had been talking with ‘a lot of other parties’.

One of those companies is Chinese owned Bright Food, which recently failed in its bid to purchase the CSR sugar and renewable energy arm, Sucrogen.

Bright Food’s offer for CSR was tabled last Friday and was gazumped by Singapore conglomerate Wilmar International. The sale is subject to the Foreign Investment Review Board.

Speaking on radio yesterday co-operative chairman Ian Causley said Bright Food wanted to begin talks with the co-operative and if the company made an offer the board was required to make an assessment.

Mr Causley said the co-operative would be keeping its options open.

Wardell canegrower Alex Pring said he would wait to learn more before commenting, but pointed out that a majority of co-operative members would have to agree to any sale.

“We are a co-operative and I think you need something like 75 per cent of members to agree,” he said.

The NSW Sugar Milling Co-operative has a market share of about 4.5pc of Australia’s $2.5 billion dollar sugar industry.

The co-operative generated revenue of $88 million last year.

It was set up in 1878 by about 600 cane growers who bought three mills in NSW.

It also holds a 50 per cent stake in Manildra Harwood Sugars, which owns and operates the only sugar refinery in NSW.

A representative of the Guangxi Shang Shang Sugar Company, based in Shanghai and owned by Bright Food, said it could not comment on the possible bid.



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